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Underground – a sub-culture champion that was born out of a love of renegade style

It began in Manchester, 1981. A city in the North of England, Manchester at that time was bleak, poverty-stricken and depressed from industrial decline. Yet there remained a defiant, relentless creativity from the true melting pot of sub-cultures that co-existed there.

Punks, Post Punks, Gothics, New Romantics and Football Casuals and even remnants of Northern Soul all co-habited in the city. Up until that point, even up to the current day, it was a rare anomaly to find that number of sub-cultures in one place, at that one time. You could say that Underground was born at the exact right moment, in the exact right place.

From what then seemed a doomed landscape, Underground’s beginnings stem modestly from a store in the heart of Manchester. We reached out to fashion and sportswear brands to acquire stock for the store, only to be shunned for being too small and too ‘unorthodox’. The only reaction to rejection was to push further and sure enough...our true spirit was forged. This rejection provided the perfect motivation for the non-conformist, punk-minded Underground.

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Driving forward, we went to Germany for trainers with three stripes, Italy for Tennis wear, and we scoured the UK for factories to produce our shoes, jackets and knitwear. The 'Football Casuals' from Manchester and beyond became key customers for the brand. The city's icons, such as the Gallagher's of Oasis fame, to Shawn Ryder of the Happy Mondays, were all regular clients.

Soon enough, the store became an icon itself. It is referenced, in books that described the Casual's culture, as one of the pioneer sellers of rare and imported trainers. But the Casuals were just one of many sub-cultures that shared the city centre and our interests.

That was what so special about Manchester - it is an undeniable rarity to have all these subcultures living contently, side-by-side, unafraid of experimenting and crossing into another.

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The other sub-cultures rarely referred to themselves with group names of Post Punks, Punks, New Romantics, Goths or Casuals. A label was laughable if you were in one of those groups - those that mattered knew. Though they ruled the city centre at night, they were genuine outsiders - particularly when it came to fashion.

In the entirety of the country, let alone the city - there were few places to find the styles that suited them. This void provided Underground with a purpose. Underground tasked itself with providing the product for the people that no one cared about. Clothing and footwear for the outsiders, the extroverts and the creatively alienated.

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Now inspired by the independence and freedom of the burgeoning movements that were creeping into the country's peripherals and with a will to provide them with what they desire, Underground fully developed into a unique brand when it went on to create its own products, inspired by British music and youth culture.

Sliding effortlessly from one sub-culture to another, we firstly presented the Monkey Boot - a style staple of youth culture, and one of the best sellers at our store. Then moving across to a favourite of the Casuals - Corduroy Shoes and our version of Desert Boots. To ensure authenticity and quality, we took production to the mill towns of Lancashire and made our own. At the same time, the first shoes were starting production in Northampton.

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It was in these formative years that we expanded beyond footwear to further our brand's unique offering. In Nottingham, we passed on our knitwear designs, which included a classic crew neck that made its appearance on the terraces of football grounds across the UK.

Looking beyond the Post Punk, Casual and New Wave looks of Manchester, the brand watched the evolution of the movements across the nation, most notably in London's neighbourhood of Camden. It was 1987, and our first full collection, now known as our Originals, had hit the market. Always inspired by the ferocity of punk and its febrile aftermath, Underground's Originals collection became a mainstay for New Romantics, Goths and New Wavers during the late 1980's.

The Originals collection was an unapologetic interpretation of some of the iconic alternative British footwear designs. Creepers, for many an anachronistic throwback to the 1950's, were given new life, interpretation and meaning by Underground. Steel Cap boots, once the preserve of the workingman, had already been reinterpreted for fashion, but the job was half-hearted. Underground brought this to a new level by ingeniously reworking shapes, silhouettes, and bringing in new colours and materials.

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As Post Punk gave way to the grunge of the 1990's, Underground's steel cap boots found favour with the scene's plaid-shirted disciples in North America, Europe and Japan. At one point, Underground was ranked among the top five footwear brands in Japan and a mainstay with girls and boys on the streets of Harajuku.

Over in the US, the brand was in stores from coast to coast, as Underground encapsulated the real charm of a legitimate British brand. Our appeal travelled hand-in-hand with the music they had sought to import across the Atlantic and they looked to us once again to expose what was next in music and style.

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Throughout the 90's, Underground remained faithful to its roots with devoted Grunge customers, by continually spurring the sales of our robust, timeless steel cap boots. Yet parallel to this, it was the reappearance of Psychobilly in the decade that gave the Creeper its next step. The culture fused the archetypal rockabilly look with the lurid and the tongue-in-cheek, a concept Underground embraced with ease. From their revival, Psychobilly's incited a revival of the creeper, and Underground was ready and waiting.

By this time, the brand had relocated its store to Carnaby Street in London's Soho. Even the stars of the dominating Brit Pop scene were looking to Underground to provide statement making, British shoes- everyone from the like of the Republica to the Spice Girls.

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As the nineties passed, Underground's winklepicker style became the shoe of choice for fashion-forward followers of the angular, guitar-driven music that returned at the dawn of the 21st century. Androgyny was big, and with Underground's all-gender approach, the brand was an obvious choice for many.

Appearing on the runway of Anna Sui, Jean Paul Gaultier or Karl Lagerfeld, these designers enjoyed Underground for its adherence to authenticity and individuality.
The Underground clothing collection appeared in Asia, with stores in Hong Kong and a dedicated following across China. Collaborations with Lee Jeans and with Lewis Leathers were among the centrepieces for Underground.

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In the following 2010+ years, the Original Underground Creeper asserted itself as an archetype. Having launched the Originals collection in 1987, Underground had remained committed to this particular collection, even when the tide of fashion washed in another direction.

Questioned by many as to the relevance of the Creeper - it was Underground that held the style aloft and no doubt brought it back to the centre stage in 2011. From Johnny Depp to Rihanna, or Kiko to Agnes Deyn - the Underground Creeper went from being ridiculed to transforming yet again into the favoured shoe for tastemakers across the globe.

Collaborations with labels included Mugler, Ashish and Cassette Playa, and those continued to cement our position. With this success in tow, we returned to Tokyo with another pop up store in Harajuku and relocated the London store to Berwick Street, a nearly forgotten stretch in the heart of Soho. Steeped in a rich and intriguing history- it’s often labelled the birthplace of British music - but at that time its neighbouring streets often overshadowed it. Five years later, now restored to its former glory, Berwick Street is a bustling, vibrant space that we are proud to call home.

The distinctive silhouette with which the brand became synonymous found its way to new products, including Jungle and Nox. These designs in themselves have a lineage right back to the brands' early Manchester days - remember our monkey boots and imported trainers? Both of the new designs were inspired by the brands ongoing engagement with British music.

Researching the digital visualisation of sound brought us back to our roots with sole designs that reflected iconic imagery of soundwaves. The Jungle collection included a boot design that was inspired by the Monkey Boot. The Nox took us back to the trainers that had been there at the start and it was pop-up at London's Selfridges that provided a launch pad for the Nox collection.

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Always Forward, Never Back- the brand continues and strives to evolve. No more apparent than with the innovative Half-Moon clothing collection. Careful, concise and well-constructed reinterpretations and re-imaginations of garments from our early days are together fused with new developments and designs.

In another salute to our roots, there is again a focus on manufacturing in the UK, to utilise the skills of our country's generations and regions. Signs, signatures and symbols of our colourful past are projected forward for a new generation.

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Underground remains at the forefront of British subversive style

As movements have splintered and cross-pollinated with increasing speed, Underground has no fear of exploring the unknown whilst remaining a touchstone for those for whom style is synonymous with intelligence, independence and rebellious spirit.

Today, a new youth culture is emerging, one that challenges all together a society deemed oppressive, notably by breaking the codes of gender, races and cultures. By its history and values, Underground follows that path, its DNA made of a relentless feeling of 'never enough'.
• As true punks, Underground challenges.
• As an unexpected brand, it will do everything but stick to one style.
• Independent, it has the freedom to do according to its will.
• Modern and in sync to the concerns of its consumers, Underground always makes sure it is the first to know.
• Emotional, the brand is never less than 100% committed.

With such a rich cultural history and consistency in serving the needs of those who operate outside of the mainstream, it was, and still is the purpose of Underground to accompany those in their quest for uniqueness and self-expression.

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Through this history, you can see the brand has remained consistent and loyal to its origins. British sub-culture and music are at the very heart of the brand. It inspires us and we hope that we inspire those in our relative universe. From the early Manchester days of Post Punk and New Wave through the years of Madchester and Jungle, to the Indie, New Rave and Grime of now, the music soundtrack is always with us and ingrained in our aesthetic ventures.

The multitude of genres, voices, beats and melodies that we look to is vast- as with those who reversely don our apparel. Everyone from Adam Ant to Lady Gaga has braced the stage, and accomplished a huge feat doing something they love, dressed in Underground.

It was those formative rejections and demeaning labels that squared our character, lit a fire underneath us. Yes, we're unorthodox. We march to our own beat. So that today, we are in a position support the independent labels, the Vinyl stores, the designer's fresh out of school and the garage bands. We shout out for the independent venues, the social clubs, pubs, and for the clubs that are under the threat of being closed.

Knowing our humble, renegade beginnings, we look to support the new, the unsigned, the upcoming and the established - all of them share our spirit. As do our faithful and eclectic clientele.

Underground boasts a sizeable but rare crossover in our customer and inspiration base- the bands or artists that inspire us are commonly the customers we serve. The give and take between the two is a prized and unique one - we look no further than our precious consumers to see where our constant evolution takes us next.

underground clothing shoes boots